On Monday, we had a big tree close to the house and definitely in the way of progress.
The garage beneath it is where the studio is going to be. The tree is overwhelming the space, and although the birds like it as a halfway stopping point between the cherry tree further up the garden and the oak tree in the field next door, well, they are just going to have to flap their wings a little more to make their journey in one hit.
And the view from the cherry tree. As you can see, the goat willow blocks out a lot of light from the courtyard. However, by Tuesday afternoon...
...masses of light spilling into the courtyard AND new views across the countryside from the middle garden! What a difference!
Next, the garage...
One of the best moments, writing my blog two years ago day in day out, was when I had an idea of something to blog about that could give me a few days of material.
What's almost as good is when you realise that you can even commit one day of the blog to writing about the pleasures of coming up with an idea to write about. Sometimes the sentences that I write even make sense.
So these ideas sometimes come in the middle of the night and they don't always survive into the harsh light of day. Not because they're bad ideas, but they just don't always linger in the mind. Sometimes it's probably just the terrible snoring which drives them away and with my weight gain the snoring is worse than ever, and I'm waking with a sore back and sore feet. I quite often wake in the middle of the night and worry about work and I try to drive these worries away by coming up with brilliant ideas for amazing novels. But if I'm lucky I get a blog post or two out of it.
And that is what I will be writing tomorrow.
Denise and I agreed that blogging was one of the things that kept me on track with my diet. I was trying to work out when I did my successful diet - it must have been drawing into its final days two years ago now. And so I'm not sure I should feel terrible that it took me a couple of years to put on a load of weight. As far as yo-yos go that's a pretty slow one. But, yes, still a yo-yo. But also, they say that what goes up most come down so I shall adopt this optimistic attitude to my current feeble attempts at the diet.
We were in the local Morrisons on Saturday and the lady at the checkout eyeballed Denise's copy of the latest 'Slimming World' magazine and engaged us in conversation about diets. She told us how she currently attended a Slimming World class but she was thinking of ditching it because it wasn't really working. She had had much more success in the past using a diet of her own devising which involved counting carbs. And by this method she had lost 4 and a half stone. Which she had subsequently put back on again. Denise says that people round here are much more friendly than she's used to. But, in my opinion, people always talk to Denise because she likes talking to people and she's got a 'talk to me' face. I have no idea what this actually means, but whatever it is Denise has the kind of face people love to talk to. I do not. And throughout this conversation I carried on packing the shopping into bags and not talking. Though I did nod along occasionally and sometimes I hummed the chorus.
But it did confirm my belief that, just as lightning never strikes twice (not necessarily a statistically true face) and just as you can never cross the same river twice and you only live once and all those sorts of things, you can never do the same diet twice. It's just too boring. And if the original diet had worked so well you wouldn't be in the state you are in now, Andrew, so try something different this time.
And blog about it, that will definitely help.
So, off to a terrible start with my new year of weight loss and just, you know, snapping the bloody heck out of it and looking on the bright side and all that guff. Purely 'terrible start' in terms of not blogging for a few days so I've lost track. But I'm on a course in Croydon and this is my breakfast...
..and, yes, that is the bulge of my tummy at the bottom of the photo. Just look at it straining to get at the plate.
But worry not for I shall have a healthy lunch and small dinner to make up for this and I have a lovely view of sunny Croydon to eat my breakfast to. Hoorah!
Well, if you asked that question you wouldn't be entirely wrong. Let's face it, you would be entirely right. Mid-November last year I said I was going to start blogging again in order to lose weight. But lightening never strikes the same place twice (note to self, this is patently untrue and a terrible pun which I have felt obliged to point out in case you think I can't spell 'lightning') and I was unable to use the same method to lose weight viz using MyFitnessPal to count calories. Too much faff. Too little self control. Too much crisps and chocolate being shoved into my gob in a secret eating style. Don't blame it on work stress. Nonsense! Don't blame it on the long winter nights, the lack of seeing clouds and sunshine on the drive home from work, the supermarkets for doing BOGOF on crisps and chocolate, the supermarkets for not selling my favourite weight loss soup. Don't blame myself. This isn't a blame game. This is a war on calories and feeling sad. This is one year to change my life.
That is my manifesto for the year.
As my weight decreased 2 years ago I was really pleased to fit into smaller uniforms. But even at my best, it was hard to fit my massive head into my scrub top. But this is just pitiful, the kind of photo you put on your fridge to stop you eating...
Denise is joining me on this year's diet. We are going to motivate each other. We sat down yesterday and went through recipe books to make plans for calorie controlled meals. We took photos because you know how much I like to do a morphing picture as weight comes off (and I insisted we do these outside so we would see the changing seasons)
I suggested to Denise that we could motivate each other by being massively disapproving of each other's choice of food, size of tummy, level of fitness. We have tried other motivational methods in the past which haven't worked. I said to get, "Just look at my fat belly every so often and tut."
Denise did not feel this would be helpful. I've already played the sponsorship card so I don't think I can use that again (especially as one person has already asked for their money back - I declined). So we will have to come up with a plan.
A year or so ago I finished my sponsored weight loss. It went amazingly well. Do you remember? I lost 6 and a half stone and, at my lowest weight, I was 13 stone and 13 pounds. Wowzer!
And then I embarked on the rest of my life. Would I keep the weight off? Would I maintain the lifestyle changes?
Well, not wanting to keep you in suspense for too long, let me tell you that, as of this morning, I weigh 17 stone and 7 pounds. I know. I'm ashamed. Also I'm pretty embarrassed because most of this weight gain has been in the last 4 months.
You'll know that we moved house, yes? Well, in the month or so before moving we had a lot of stress and I spent 2 or 3 weeks camping in a field in Staffordshire so that I could start my job in Stoke before we moved. And then, after we moved up here, about a month ago I was bitten on my wrist by a cat- I was in hospital for a week on intravenous antibiotics, and then I've been signed off work for the weeks since. And I have ballooned! The cake to mouth reflex in my wrist has not been diminished in any way at all, but the moving around and eating less reflex has been significantly reduced. To the extent that when I go back to work I'm genuinely not sure I will fit into my uniforms. Return to work is likely to be this weekend or the following week, so I've got to shed some pounds. Absolutely got to.
Now while I've been putting on the weight I've tried, intermittently, to restart my diet. Started entering food into MyFitnessPal. But I barely make it through a full day. I've been snacking on cheese, sneakily eating chocolate bars, doing all the things that were bad. And I haven't written a blog entry in ages. I really need to publicly start shaming myself again. That's what I need.
So, here we go, starting again from day 365, a year of blogging to get myself overweight again (because that's all I ever really achieved, going from being morbidly obese to obese to overweight) And that's the sort of negativity I shall start crushing right now!
About 24 years ago I made my impact on the world of Doctor Who when Virgin published my novel 'Witch Mark' (it's available from the ebay for about 50p if you are interested). It is not one of the well-remembered, ground-breaking novels but it was my proud little contribution to the ongoing story of the Doctor.
When I was feeling miserable last year, one of the things that cheered me up was a sudden flurry of 'Friend' requests on Facebook from people who only knew me because of 'Witch Mark' and had fond, nostalgic memories of it. Amongst these was a request from a chap called Tommy Donbavand. I had never heard of him and his profile picture was a bit weird but I eventually accepted the friend request and discovered more about him.
And what I discovered was that he was a well-loved author of novels, Beano cartoons and Doctor Who. He was generous with his time for others, spent a lot of time in schools promoting reading and writing. He'd written a series of books called Scream Street and they were being turned into a series for CBBC. And he was a funny guy.
Being Facebook friends is a bit odd. I mean, I still don't know Tommy from Adam, but I formed an opinion of him and thought that if I ever came out of my shell and started actually, you know, interacting with people then I could do worse than talk to Tommy.
So, it was a sad day when I heard that Tommy was suffering from health problems. He was blogging about it in a brave, honest and funny way...
Go on, click on the picture, follow the link. Have a read.
Now, the thing is, like many authors Tommy makes his living not just from the sales of his books (I'm not in a position to know, but as I understand it, it is pretty hard to live on what a writer makes) but also from his school visits, his touring, his talks. Things that need him to be present in person, things that aren't possible when he is being treated for cancer.
So a bunch of great people, people who had sent me 'Friend' requests on Facebook, people who I knew no better than Tommy but who had helped me through a difficult and upsetting period of my life, decided to put together a charity anthology to raise money to help him through this difficult time. And I was honoured to be one of the people who was asked to contribute. And for the first time in 24 years I managed to get my act together.
So, if you are a fan of Dr Who, or the Beano, or Scream Street, or if you just want to help out a lovely bloke in his time of need, please visit the Obverse Books website and order a copy of 'A Target for Tommy' (ebook or paperback) Just click on the picture...
There are a lot of great stories in there, with contributions by writers of Doctor Who from the television, novels and audioplays. Mine requires (possibly) some knowledge of a story aired 30 years ago but don't let that put you off!
Stupid, stupid me!
As you may, or may not, know I was bitten by a cat a couple of weeks ago. And, foolishly, in the spirit of 'not wanting to make a fuss or put anybody out' I didn't get antibiotics straight away. Oh no, I wated for 24 hours so that it could get infected good and proper, and then got antibiotics. But the infection I got wasn't susceptible to those antibiotics and I was then hospitalised for nearly a week and signed off work for a further 2 weeks. And today I have discovered that I've developed a sore under the dressing which is oozing quite a lot of blood.
All of whichis a long winded way of accounting for any failures of punctuation, grammar, spelling et cetera because I am typing one-handed and, frankly, can't be bothered to go back and edit.
When I returned from the hospital on Sunday it became apparent that we were due for our longest period of sustained sunshine (approx. 1.27 minutes) since we arrived in Shropshire and so the farmer who manages the fields around us was going to get going with making hay as the old adage suggests he should do.
As a consequence of all the cutting of the grass, the wildilfe in the fields was obviously much disturbed.
I realise that this picture looks the very epitome of pastoral calm and tranquility so you will have to take my word for it that nature showed itself to be most brutal, red in tooth and claw. Particularly at first, there were a lot of rooks (or possibly ravens, or, who knows, maybe crows - my single handed wielding of binoculars makes everything a bit shaky)
All those black dots in the distance? Corvids! Corvids, I tells ya!
But hang on a moment, I hear you cry. What is that brown blurry thing in the middle of the picture?
What? This brown, blurry thing?
Bit camera shy, but eventually via the medium of a wobbly telescope, wobbly hand and wobbly camera I managed to get a slightly better view...
...which I am excited to reveal is definitely a golden eagle, even though Denise assures me it is probably a red kite. Look, who is the wildlife expert with good eyesight around here anyway?
It came a bit closer so I took this picture from the kitchen window, and then I tried to sneak outside and take a closer picture. Have you tried sneaking when a back door doesn't close easily and a certain kitten is trying to follow you through a door?
Bye bye, kite!
Hi, I'm Andy, serial weight gainer. My year of dieting is over! But you can still give money to Shelter or the PDSA!